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Carole Gaskell

Full Potential Group

Managing Director

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How to activate the potential of leaders by boosting their heads and hearts


The latest research from Egon Zehnder (2018) proves that CEOs believe they are operating up to 50% below their potential. Talent gaps, disruptive change, poor productivity, low engagement levels and silo working are all taking their toll.

Doing things simpler, better and faster is the new prevailing mantra for leaders everywhere, but to enable leaders to do this, leadership development specialists need to know how to activate more of a leader’s potential.

Neuro agility and motivational mapping

The key to unlocking potential is to use a blend of existing and new approaches that boost both the head and heart intelligence of leaders.

Neuro-agility is a new L&D technique that boosts the head – helping leaders develop more agile brainpower so that they are more brain-fit, learn faster and work more effectively whilst improving their overall wellbeing.

Motivational mapping, on the other hand, is a technique that boosts the heart – helping leaders become more motivationally intelligent, understanding what drives them and their teams, thereby improving energy, productivity and engagement, and creating a positive environment where everyone works better.

Neuro-agility – simpler, better and faster head intelligence

Neuro agility is a phrase coined by one of the world’s leading specialists in the neuroscience of learning, Dr Andre Vermeulen.

It’s about the readiness of all the senses and brain regions to function as one integrated whole brain system, being receptive and responsive to receive and transmit bio-chemical impulses at optimum capacity under new and potentially stressful conditions.

With engagement and motivation levels at an all-time low, leaders must energise not just themselves but their teams too.

Leaders who are highly neuro agile have the flexibility to learn new skills, attitudes and behaviours easily and unlearn old behaviour patterns quickly.

Dr Vermeulen has created a neuro-agility brain profiling tool that provides leaders with powerful insights into boosting their brainpower.

There are two key elements that underpin how neuro-agile leaders are. These are firstly understanding the seven factors of their own unique neurological design (their hardware – and how to make the most of it). And secondly, optimising six drivers (the software) that boost their brain performance and significantly influence the ease, speed and flexibility with which they work.

Understanding your neurological design

To improve brain fitness leaders need to understand seven aspects of their own unique neurological design, and those of their team. These include:

  1. Lateral dominance – understanding your preferred hemisphere – left or right – to identify whether you learn best through words or visuals, so you can find the best way of accessing new information.
  2. Expressive or receptive preference – how you use the back and front areas of your brain influences whether you typically learn best by reflection (receptive preference) or by sharing responses verbally (expressive preference). Knowing your preference will enable leaders to find the right learning environment.
  3. Rational or emotional preference – leaders with a rational preference will enjoy academic and theoretical approaches to work, while people with an emotional preference will benefit from a more experiential ‘doing’ approach.
  4. Information processing style – we use our five senses to take in information, and the way we do that is influenced by our lateral dominance. Knowing this creates awareness amongst leaders of any neurological hindrances they may experience, especially when under stress, and how to mitigate them.  

The six drivers of brain performance and agility

Once leaders understand how their brains are wired they can then focus on dialling up the six drivers of brain performance and agility.

These six drivers are brain fitness (the ability to access left and right brain hemispheres simultaneously), stress coping skills, having quality sleep, movement and exercise, brain-friendly diet and nutrition (plenty of water and food rich in Omega 3), and embracing a positive attitude.

Stimulating the brain with mental activities, games, puzzles, music and humour; doing cross lateral exercise (such as dancing, martial arts, yoga); stretching at work; going for regular walks; and having meetings standing up,all make a huge difference to a leader’s brain fitness.

Motivational Mapping – boosting engagement with heart intelligence

With engagement and motivation levels at an all-time low, leaders must energise not just themselves but their teams too.

Activating more potential is not simply a matter of giving clear direction – clarifying people’s goals, responsibilities and KPIs and then building capability. If people are coming to work with low levels of energy and motivation, the best business plan in the world alone will not suffice. Often neither will money incentivise people longer-term.

The greater the change and uncertainty, the more important it becomes for leaders to acquire motivational intelligence.

When leaders recognise their own blend of the nine motivators, and their individual team members’ top motivational drivers, this makes a huge difference to how they lead and energise their people.

From our own experience, the sad fact is that less than 50% of people are accurate about what really motivates them. Helping leaders understand what motivators are driving them and their team is increasingly the missing link to high performance and engagement, especially in these challenging times.

Motivational mapping, created by James Sale, provides groundbreaking insight into how to measure, map and improve anyone’s motivation.

Nine motivational drivers

There are nine individual motivational drivers and each of us has a blend of them all, with some significantly more important to us than others.

When leaders recognise their own blend of the nine motivators, and their individual team members’ top motivational drivers, this makes a huge difference to how they lead and energise their people.

Each motivator has its own set of ‘triggers’, which leaders can align against an individual’s roles and responsibilities. Equally, leaders with motivational intelligence know what can ‘turn off’ key individuals and, consequently, the leadership approaches to avoid. 

The nine motivational drivers include: the searcher (driven by meaning, purpose and wanting to add value and make a difference), spirit (seeking freedom, autonomy and independence), creator (thriving on innovation, continuous improvement and fulfilling creative potential), expert (seeking knowledge, mastery, wanting to develop more expertise and specialisation).

Then there is the builder (the most commercially driven of the motivators, energised by money, material satisfaction and above average standard of living), director (seeking power, influence and control over people and/or resources), star (energised by recognition, respect and social esteem), the friend (seeking belonging, friendship and fulfilling relationships) and the defender (motivated by feeling safe and secure, wanting predictability and stability).  

When leaders know how to recognise these different motivational drivers in themselves and others, and understand the various different success strategies and ‘hot buttons’ to boost motivation, they can create the conditions for everyone around them to feel energised and motivated to exceed expectations.

So, create an environment that enhances head and heart intelligence, speed of learning and lights the fire within your leaders. As the need for business agility increases, improving leaders’ brain agility, adaptability, motivation and drive will be fundamental game-changers in their future success.


Author Profile Picture
Carole Gaskell

Managing Director

Read more from Carole Gaskell

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